Dar es Salaam lost its "capital city" status to Dodoma. Here's how that could actually save the former capital.
19 May 2019
Dar es Salaam, Arabic for “House of Peace,” was the capital of Tanganyika, and then of Tanzania, for several decades after the United Republic’s independence in 1961. (It had been the provincial capital from 1891, when the Germans transfered the seat of power from Bagamoyo.)
Initially the city’s development was constrained by the government’s leftist “Ujamaa” scheme, which aimed to re-organize society by relocating city dwellers to collectivized village farmland. In 1973, President Julius Nyerere, then the leader of a one-party state, announced that the capital city would move to Dodoma. A majority of the local party branches of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) voted in favor of the transfer, which made it official state policy.
At that time, with a population of 20,000, Dodoma did not even have a paved road linking it to the east.¹ The city lacked an international airport, as it still does today, and it also had little housing to accommodate officials and government workers.
Without foreign investment, and explicitly fostering an experimental barter economy not apt to generate funds, the government unsurprisingly found itself with insufficient resources to execute its ambition of ennobling Dodoma as seat of power.
In April 2018, the president declares Dodoma to be the national capital, and in September, the National Assembly follows suit, passing the Dodoma Capital City Declaration Act, which explicitly and officially designates Dodoma as Tanzania’s one and only capital city.²
The president himself promises to relocate his residence and the entire executive branch before the close of 2019.
Finally, Dodoma achieves its elevated dignity, both in the law and on the ground.
With the construction of a standard gauge rail through Dodoma, linking Rwanda and Central Africa with Tanzanian Indian Ocean Ports, the United Republic’s capital stands to gain logistical and commercial centrality.
With the prospect of an international airport and financing in place for a ring road, indeed many upcoming infrastructure projects will transform the new capital city, presumably all to the detriment of Dar es Salaam. However, a closer look reveals that is not the case.